Birds have a calming effect

King’s College London discovered that viewing or hearing birds improves mental health for up to eight hours.

Birdlife may benefit patients with depression, the most frequent mental disorder worldwide.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, employed smartphone app Urban Mind to collect real-time mental wellness and birdsong reports.

MRC, NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre, and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South London sponsored this investigation.

The King’s College London, J&L Gibbons, and Nomad Projects-developed Urban Mind app was used by 1,292 participants to complete 26,856 assessments between April 2018 and October 2021.

Most participants were from the UK, EU, and US.

The app asked participants three times a day if they could see or hear birds, followed by mental health questions to build an association and estimate its duration.

The study also examined mental health diagnoses and concluded that hearing or watching birds improved mental health in both healthy persons and depressed people. Birds and mental health were not explained by co-occurring environmental elements like trees, plants, or streams.

Andrea Mechelli, IoPPN’s Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health, said: “Our physical and mental health benefits from environmental services. Scientifically proving these benefits is tough. Our study supports building and sustaining biodiverse environments with birds because mental health is significantly linked to this. The findings also encourage increasing birdwatching encounters, especially for persons with mental health disorders like depression.”

J & L Gibbons landscape architect and research partner Jo Gibbons said: “Who hasn’t heard the dawn chorus’s musical complexity early in spring? A multi-sensory experience that enhances life regardless of mood or location. This fascinating study shows how much birdsong uplifts. It shows that biodiversity improves mental health. That birdsong’s sensuous stimulation, part of nature’s daily “doses,” is precious and long-lasting.”

Scientific Reports released ‘Smartphone-based ecological momentary evaluation indicates birdlife’s mental health benefits’.

The Medical Research Council, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, and NIHR Applied Research Collaborative South London sponsored this work.


Journal reference:

Hammoud, R., et al. (2022) Smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment reveals mental health benefits of birdlife’. Scientific Reports.

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